Minimum Wage on the Rise – Changes in Alberta and Ontario Could Be Just the Beginning

Just over one month ago, under the leadership of Premier Rachel Notley, the Albertan government announced that, effective October 1, 2015, minimum wage would increase in the province from $10.20 to $11.20 per hour. The increase is the first step for Premier Notley’s NDP in their quest to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018, a promise that was made repeatedly during the NDP’s 2015 provincial campaign. The changes will end Alberta’s reign as the jurisdiction with the lowest minimum wage in the country.

Interestingly, on the same day that Alberta’s minimum wage will increase, Ontario’s minimum wage will also increase, from $11 to $11.25 per hour. This change will take place in accordance with amendments made to the Employment Standards Act 2000 that were passed last fall. The increase is the first in what will be an annual adjustment to Ontario’s minimum wage as it has been tied to the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”). It will be Ontario’s ninth minimum wage increase since 2003. Elsewhere in Canada, provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia have also tied minimum wage to the CPI while the Northwest Territories’ recent move to $12.50 per hour (also tied to the CPI) currently leads the country.

These changes have been made in the context of a growing movement promoting the idea of the “living wage.” Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson recently called on his municipal government to become a “living wage” employer while, south of the border, Seattle ($15), Los Angeles ($15 by 2020), San Francisco ($15), and Chicago ($13) have all announced significant increases to minimum wage.

Advocates of the “living wage” are trying to make the $15 “living wage” a federal election issue. Notably, federal NDP leader Tom Mulclair has made a $15 federal minimum wage by 2019 a key part of his campaign platform. Although, it must be noted, that the majority of minimum wage workers are not federally regulated.

In this dynamic wage environment, employers would be well-advised to monitor changes to the law carefully.


  1. Careful readers of Slaw will have noted the blog post by Andrew Langille included in this week’s Monday Mix, suggesting that the impact of a federal change could be larger than sometimes alleged.